Richie Benaud pays tribute to Tony Greig December 29, 2012

'He was strong in every regard'

Richie Benaud on Tony Greig, who died in Sydney at the age of 66

The suddenness of Tony's death must have come as quite a shock?
It's been a sad day. It was earlier in the day that I got the news from David Gyngell [Channel Nine chief executive] in Sydney, and it's still a sad night, I can tell you. We knew he was ill, but we didn't know this was going to happen. For Viv and the kids, we're deeply sorry. We'll be raising a glass to Tony.

What are your first memories of Tony?
I first saw him playing when I was commentating in England with the BBC. When Chappelli took the side over in '72, I saw Tony play up at Old Trafford. He top scored in both innings of a game that England won. They wouldn't have won it without his contribution. In that game at Old Trafford I was very impressed with this guy Greig. I thought there's a good player. That was the first time I paid very much attention to him, and he looked good.

After he became such an iconic commentator, was Tony's skill as a player sometimes forgotten?
That certainly can happen. He was an outstanding player. He took over the captaincy in '75 and kept on playing very well. I think I remember correctly, in a match in the West Indies he bowled the West Indians out when he switched from bowling medium-pace to offspin. The thing that struck me most about him as a cricketer, and it runs in to the sort of guy he was in what you might term proper life, is that he was strong. He was strong in every regard. He had strong opinions. He didn't mind expressing them. In World Series Cricket he was strong. Everything he did was strong. It might not go right, but it was strong.

What are your memories of Tony during the World Series Cricket days?
I'm sure it was a very big decision for him, and it was for everyone with World Series Cricket. We were sports consultants to World Series Cricket and we therefore met up. It was a case of him being captain [of England] and they sacked him as captain and he still remained strong through all that, in his cricket and his civil life as well. Tony Greig did all sorts of things in World Series Cricket, in the administration and things like that. One thing he did was when it came to the TCCB bringing the case against World Series Cricket - and all the other countries were in that, attacking World Series Cricket - when it came to the court case in front of a fellow called Justice Slade, Greigy said at the meeting, 'I'll be first in there and I'll be going into the witness box, as long as nobody has any objection to it'. The other two were Mike Procter and John Snow. There were nine counts brought against World Series Cricket and Justice Slade found in favour of World Series Cricket on all nine. That was in the main to do with Greig, Procter and Snow standing up in the High Court and telling the truth. Nine out of nine was pretty good. And Greigy led that.

What were your initial thoughts on Tony when he joined the commentary team?
He was good. He was also forthright in the commentary team. He did a variety of things. He was commentating but he was also doing the pitch reports. I don't know if you become completely famous for pitch reports, but he did, he got as close to it as anyone could possibly have done. The work he did there and the research he put into it by talking to people who knew about soil and weather and talking to curators, in particular John Maley, the curator who first invented drop-in pitches for World Series Cricket. Tony Greig learnt a lot from John Maley about pitches and soil and cracks and so on.

What did Tony bring to the commentary box?
He was exactly what you would expect from a former captain of a nation, in this case England. He was forthright and had opinions and if one was shown to be incorrect, he didn't mind saying 'all right, I got that wrong, but now I'm going to try to find out why. I was told that this morning and repeated it and it was wrong, now I'm going to find out why I was told it'. He was a good, tough character. But a very, very kind character - not to the other commentators, but to other people. His second marriage with Viv has brought Tom and Beau and the rest of the family is flying in from all parts of Australia now to be with Viv and the others.

What was Tony like away from the game?
He and Bill Lawry were great mates. They used to knock around together. But Greigy was always game for finding a new restaurant with whatever the food might be, and a nice wine list.

Will the Sydney Test be a difficult occasion now?
I don't think it will be difficult. I think it will be sad. These things always are. We'll raise a glass to him; we may even raise a second glass to him. Certainly he'll be remembered, because I thought he was a wonderful, strong character. He was a guy who admitted if he wasn't right 100% of the time, but he was good news and he was good news for cricket.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here